At the end of every year there are so many Top Tens that I get bored even thinking about reading them, with the result that I hardly ever get as far as compiling my own. But just the other day, while being subjected to the same brain-numbingly bad cinema commercials I’d already sat through about 200 times, I jotted down my favourite films of the year. I started out trying to limit it to ten before thinking, what the hell, this is MY list and I can do as I please.
Here, then, are the films that will be showing in PARADISE PLAZA, on a nice big screen in a soundproof cinema where no-one talks, texts or rustles (or indeed commits any of the sins listed below). Tickets will cost no more than 5 euros, and I will be able to sit down in the front row without first having to brush bits of popcorn off my seat.
For its fabulously doomy and portentous credits and music, for making me gasp in shock at least three times, for Jackie Weaver as the matriarch who’s all the scarier for being so unceasingly bright and perky, for scary Ben Mendelsohn, who’s capable of anything. This is what James Gray’s films ought to be like, but never are.
For making me laugh and cry and putting me in a happy mood, for Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo and the tapdancing, and for the clever and adorable Jack Russell. Lovely. The backlash should be starting around…now.
For being the best ballet horror movie since Suspiria, for the body horror (ouch that hangnail!), for the hair scraped back into tight ballet buns, for a full complement of crazy chick performances from Natalie Portman, Barbara Hershey, Mila Kunis and Winona Ryder, for demonstrating that leading female characters can be fucked-up fruitbaskets, just like male ones.
For the slow-burn opening, for the sheer unpredictability of its Heathers meets Battle Royale plot, for the bomb blast, for the “endless, senseless, graphic violence against children” (as one imdb commentator put it), for film-making so thrilling I didn’t want to take notes in case I missed a second of it.
For making me laugh out loud more than any other film this year, for the Charley Varrick reference, for Brendan Gleeson and Mark Strong.
For being creepier than most of today’s so-called horror movies, for making me able to watch people walking quite slowly all the way across fields without getting bored, for making me worry what was going to happen next, for the freakiest sex scene of the year, for the extraordinary Alexandra Lemâtre (not pretty, but you can’t take your eyes off her), for all-round services to cinematic weirdness.
For giving me goose pimples, for Kirsten Dunst knocking it out of the park in her best performance since Interview with the Vampire, for putting an optimistic spin on the End of the World, for the Wagner, for the paintings, for the family gathering from hell, for Udo Kier, for Lars, for the ending.
For making Animal Kingdom look like a comedy.
For Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham – together again! – for Jessica Chastain, impressing me at last, for the nightmares and for all-too-accurately reflecting my anxiety-cum-phobia about the weather.
For immersing me so thoroughly in the world of early 1970s-going-on-1950s (I had a holiday job in a Civil Service office in the early 1970s, and it was EXACTLY like this), for Tomas Alfredson’s hypnotic directing, for Hoyte Van Hoytema’s elegant cinematography, for Dino Jonsäter’s razor-sharp editing, for Maria Djurkovic’s amazing production design, for all the performances but especially that of Gary Oldman (even acting with the back of his neck), for the witty soundtrack, for miraculously avoiding anachronisms and for finally – after all these years – persuading me to start reading John Le Carré.
For Aidan Gillen and Tom Fisher, for the kitten, for making me feel for a character who I started out thinking was going to be unbearably annoying, for the exemplary, instinctive, spot-on directing of Jamie Thraves, one of the best film-makers that Britain has to offer. I still don’t understand why Cry of the Owl didn’t get a proper release. Give this man money to make more films, for heaven’s sake.
For the political underpinnings, for (after a slow build-up during which I nodded off a bit) the non-stop action, for having the most stabbing and slashing of any film I’ve ever seen in my life, for being just as violent and nasty as I Saw the Devil without any of the tedious misogyny, for not being quite as much as a downer as The Chaser, for actually being quite funny in places – especially that scene with the hotel room and the axe.
I also liked: Insidious, The Awakening, Kill List, Kaboom, Rango, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Source Code, Thor, Captain America, Rundskop, Quartier Lointain, Post Mortem.
So you’ve had your fun, and now you must pay the price. You’re on an elevator to hell, going DOWN to:
HELL MULTIPLEX is a marathon tram journey away on the other side of town, located in the middle of a windswept shopping and fast-food chain restaurant complex reached via a carpark where you don’t feel safe after dark (yes Kinepolis in Heysel, north Brussels, I’m talking about YOU). Tickets cost no less than 19 euros (including 3-D spex) and en route to the auditorium you will be required to stand in at least three queues while each time being forced to listen to shrieking adolescents and/or pretentious film buffs talking utter rubbish right behind you.
To get to the auditorium where the film is showing, you must first negotiate a labyrinthine series of claustrophobic corridors, all knee-deep in small bawling infants. If you want to go to the toilet you’ll have to pay 40 centimes, and then be forced to stand in another queue because two out of the three women’s cubicles are Out of Order, and then the floor of the cubicle is wet and there are no hooks from which to hang your coat and bag.
The auditorium stinks worse than the toilet, and you will need to brush bits of popcorn off your seat before you can sit down. The performance will be preceded by clown mimes who move among the audience, pretending to pluck coloured lights out of your ear. You will then be treated to a trailer you’ve already seen about ten times, for a movie starring Vince Vaughn that nobody wants to go and see, followed by twenty minutes of commercials – young people snowboarding or surfing or abseiling while drinking fizzy drinks, ads for gas-guzzling vehicles which have the gall to pose as non-conformist or green, interminable pimping for substandard Belgian films or obscure insurance companies – followed by five minutes of anti-piracy threats.
The film itself will be in 3-D and/or slightly out-of-focus (but not enough to convince the cinema management to do anything about it) and in the wrong ratio (but not enought to convince the cinema management to do anything about it), on a screen around the size of your TV, with sound leaking in from the screening next door; you can also hear the rumbling of underground trains and the gushing of large amounts of water rushing through pipes.
The cinema will be full of people who talk incessantly to each other, text, tweet, bleep, play with their iPhones, flash lights at the corner of your eye, rustle sweet wrappings, and feed their faces with not just popcorn but malodorous takeaways featuring meat products of dubious provenance. Men with especially poor personal hygiene and adolescent leg twitch will insist on sitting next to you. About fifty people will turn up at least ten minutes late and stand around talking while they decide where to sit, and at regular intervals during the film itself, audience members will leave the auditorium; each time they pass through the exit doors you will get smacked in the face by a beam of bright light accompanied by a strong whiff of urine.
But all this horror is a piece of piss compared to the film itself, which will be one or more of the following. Pardon my vocabulary, which has thrown in the towel in the face of such dribbling tedium.
I SAW THE DEVIL
(for subjecting ALL its female characters to rape/torture/killing, except for one, who I think just gets beaten up. If you’re a woman watching this sort of thing, it gets tedious REALLY quickly. A huge disappointment from two of my favourite Korean actors and the director of three films I really like.)
(for being ineptly filmed, clunkily written, badly acted, predictable, worthy AND deadly dull.)
SUCKER PUNCH (for being sexist, stupid, senseless AND unoriginal. And boring.)
THE THING (2011) (for being lazy, sloppy, non-scary AND totally unnecessary.)
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
(for having a halfway decent trailer which unfairly raised my hopes before flinging a load of scrap metal in my face for hours on end AGAIN. And for Shia LaBoeuf.)
(for being utterly ridiculous, contrived, implausible, sentimental AND predictable. And boring.)